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«Fighting Corruption : The Way Forward (Ed.) SAMUEL PAUL (Editor), Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2013, p. 298, Rs. 995.00. Corruption has become the ...»

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Fighting Corruption : The Way Forward (Ed.)

SAMUEL PAUL (Editor), Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2013, p. 298,

Rs. 995.00.

Corruption has become the central national concern in contemporary

Indian Society. Earlier it was not taken seriously. However, it has emerged

as a very serious cancerous problem in last couple of decades. Corruption

is a global problem. Almost all the countries in the world are seized of the

problem of corruption. It is confined to developing countries, it is common even in the developed societies. However, its nature, volume and dimensions differ from country to country, environment to environment and culture to culture. When we talk about Indian society, it has become a widespread disease of epidemic proportions.

Corruption is not a new phenomenon. It is as old as the society itself.

Kautilya talks about 40 ways of embezzlement/corruption in his famous work “Arthshastra”, which was authored almost two thousand five hundred year ago. However, the phenomenon of corruption is more in focus now than ever before. The volume of corruption was meager in the beginning but it has increased in all walks of life in the recent years.

Corruption is a multi-dimensional problem. It manifests itself as political corruption, the abuse of public power, office or resources by government functionaries, officials or employees for personal gains, which involves acts of extortion, collusion, soliciting or offering bribes. There is also corporate corruption, corporate criminality and the abuse of power by company officials, either internally or externally.

Corruption connotes some form of moral delinquency or fall from rectitude. It signifies perversion of integrity by bribery or favour. It may be defined as lack of public and private morality and probity and disregard of honesty and integrity that leads to bribery, extortion, nepotism, patronage, embezzlement and graft. It involves illegal acts of officials for illicit personal gain out of official duties.

The book defines corruption as “abuse of public power for private gain”. The Prevention of Corruption Act of India (1988) refers to corruption


Taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act, as a motive or reward for doing or forebearing to do any BOOK REVIEWS / 173 official act or showing or forebearing to show, in the exercise of his official functions, favour or disfavor to any person or for rendering or attempting to render any service or disservice to any person.

The book also provides different definitions of corruption given by various thinkers. Others have further refined and expanded these definitions.

Illegal gratification can be both monetary and non-monetary. Corruption may occur in all aspects and functions of the state. It may take the form of quid pro quo deals during elections, public policymaking, awards of contracts and approvals and numerous other discretionary decisions of public officials. The definition of corruption given above focuses solely on the bribe taker. But both takers and givers are involved in corrupt transactions. The U.K. Bribery Act of 2010 takes into account both givers

and takers in its definition of corruption:

Crime of bribery occurs when a person offers, gives or promises to give a “financial or other advantage” to another individual in exchange for “improperly performing such a function or activity”. Also covered is the “offence of being bribed, defined as requesting, accepting, or agreeing to accept such an advantage, in exchange for improperly performing such a function or activity.

The Editor of the book holds that this to be a more comprehensive and balanced definition of corruption. It covers corruption in both private and public life. This is not to deny that corruption can be pervasive and harmful in corporate governance and the private sector in general. But we propose to deal with it only to the extent it arises in the context of the interactions between private and public institutions. Corruption in public governance affects all and none can escape its dysfunctional impacts. Citizens’ dependence on the state for essential services and public goods is far greater than their dependence on the private sector and its enterprises where they can at least have some freedom to choose. It is why the public debate continues to be dominated by concerns about corruption in public life and public institutions.

The transaction costs of economic activities, including investments, are raised by corruption. There is a general feeling in society that corruption is unjust, unethical and unfair. People have started to raise their voice against corrupt practices and participate in campaigns to fight corruption.

Huge scams involving political leaders as well as businessmen have provoked people in many parts of the country to register their anger against corruption.

Increased awareness about the need to protest and fight corruption is a positive development. However, corruption cannot be brought under control by merely organizing public demonstrations or pursuing a one point agenda,


174 / VOL. LX, NO. 1, JANUARY-MARCH 2014 it requires actions on multiple fronts to tackle corruption. Consensus building to translate good ideas and designs into action on the ground will take time. A transition from protests to a “time for action” is the need of the hour-action by the state, by civil society and at the level of the individual citizen.

The work under review is a volume edited by Professor Samuel Paul.

It examines the phenomenon of corruption from multiple perspectives and proposes an agenda of reform that has the potential to achieve corruption control. The book has been divided into the following ten chapters.

The editor is the author of first chapter. Prof. Samuel Paul has analysed the problem of corruption in India. He has defined the problem from different points of view. He has provided three different perspectives on corruption namely, the moral perspective, the efficiency perspective and the human rights perspective. The author also talks about typology of corruption along with the growth of corruption and also various causes of corruption in India.

The foregoing review of the complexity, severity, causes, and the systemic nature of the widespread corruption in India’s public life reminds us that there are no quick fixes to successfully tackle this evil scourge anytime soon. The problem calls for a multipronged approach, combining reforms at different levels, strategies to elicit the support of all the relevant stakeholders, and persistent public campaigns. The remedy needs to go beyond the laws and punitive measures to punish the guilty and focus also on preventive measures that can reduce the scope and opportunities for corruption in public life. It is instructive to recall that the importance of taking preventive measures to tackle corruption was emphasized by the Santhanam Committee on Corruption almost 50 years ago in 1964. The first Administrative Reforms Commission had recommended the creation of the Lokpal and Lokayukta institutions in 1966. It is not the lack of knowledge about what needs to be done to control corruption but the will and sense of urgency in taking follow-up actions that are sadly missing in our political and governance leadership. This is clearly brought out by a close look at what happened to the anti-corruption proposals made in the past few decades by various official committees of the government. The Right to Information Act is a landmark legislation in this regard.

Mechanisms to prevent, monitor and punish corruption are not adequate nor have they proved to be effective to the extent that they exist. At the national level, India still does not have an Ombudsman-type Lokpal legislation yet the Lokpal Act has been passed by the government recently.

In general, governments at the Centre and the states have been tardy at best, and insincere at worst, in investigating and pursuing corruption.

BOOK REVIEWS / 175 Commissions of Inquiry established over the years have not been able to effectively prove or punish corruption. Corruption has been politicizedjust as politics has been corrupted—in the sense that cases of corruption have been used for partisan political purposes, rather than with any serious intent to objectively tackle the problem. Investigative journalism has helped to expose corruption, but given its nature, media coverage has been episodic rather than sustained.

The low priority given to corruption control may mask a variety of factors. Vested interests that benefit from corruption will certainly put roadblocks to kill reform plans. The silence of the majority may be read as indifference by those in authority. The complex nature of some of the measures presented above may make consensus building a long drawn out process. Populist policies and schemes may leave no time or resources to the powers that pursue the cause of corruption control. But there is a silver lining in the cloud. Over the past decade, public revulsion against corruption has increased. A new generation of citizens, young and educated, are in the vanguard of a popular movement to fight corruption. This rising public pressure for change has the potential to demand better governance and corruption control. Resistance to change by the entrenched beneficiaries of corruption is bound to crumble once this movement gathers momentum.

It is this changed environment that emboldens the contributors to this book to highlight the core issues in corruption control and to propose the way forward to tackle them.

E. Sridharan argues in second chapter that corruption is significantly rooted in the imperative for political parties and politicians to raise funds for political activities, including elections. This upstream root of downstream corruption has to be effectively tackled in order to address the cancer of corruption. He offers evidence from international experience in political finance reform that has reduced the dependence on political parties and politicians on illicit funding and discretionary favours from big donors that contribute to corruption. He also presents some proposals to tackle the malaise of political corruption in the Indian context.

In the third chapter, Bibek Debroy examines the multiple dimensions of corruption and presents a diagnosis of the problem, supported by empirical evidence on its ubiquity and severity. The challenge, in his opinion, is to turn corruption from a low risk-high return activity to a high risk-low return enterprise. Tackling the inadequacies of the legal machinery, reform of the supply side of delivery, including civil service reform, procurement reform, independent anti-corruption bodies and strengthening the demand side of governance are among the areas he probes in detail.

Madhav Godbole in fourth chapter, surveys India’s track record in


176 / VOL. LX, NO. 1, JANUARY-MARCH 2014 tackling corruption in public life. He reviews the various initiatives that the successive governments have adopted to contain corruption and concludes that they have amounted to no more than a “sham war against corruption”. One exception that stands out as an oasis in the desert is the implementation of the Right to Information Act. The evidence he presents is wide ranging and includes administrative reform, functioning of the judiciary and the ombudsman system, and police reform. He argues that the Constitution, laws and regulatory systems will be effective only when the leaders and people let them function in the way they are meant to work. This missing link cannot be restored through the mere prescription of reforms.

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